Middle East News
Syria's top cleric: Mideast peace starts in Syria
Aug 12, 2008, 19:12 GMT
Damascus - Syria is the 'principal place for peace in the Arab region,' Syria's top Muslim cleric said Tuesday during a meeting with visiting European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering.
'If Syria is in peace then the whole region is. But if it is in a state of war, the whole region will catch on fire,' Syria's grand mufti Sheikh Ahmed Badr el-Din Hassoun said.
Hassoun said his country asked the European Parliament to play a vital and fundamental role in the peace process.
On Monday, Poettering said Syria is 'important and pivotal' in achieving regional peace.
'Everybody needs peace in the Middle East, ... and peace won't be realized without Syria. ... We wish to play a bigger role in the peace process,' Poettering told a press conference during his four- day official visit to Syria.
Poettering also expressed appreciation of the development in Syria in all fields, adding that the completion of the partnership pact between Syria and the EU will contribute to economic cooperation.
The partnership pact between Syria and the EU was initialed in 2004, but a final signature was postponed after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005.
Although Damascus was blamed for the killing, Syria has denied any role.
During their meeting Tuesday, Hassoun has also asked Poettering to urge German Chancellor Angela Merkel to visit Syria after French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit on September 3-4.
'As a German and EU citizen, we believe you can have a positive role in this regard,' said Hassoun adding that his country was ready to invite Merkel to visit Syria.
Hassoun revealed that he had invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit Syria.
After a few days visit in Lebanon, Poettering arrived in Damascus on Saturday and met President Bashar al-Assad and other senior officials.